Sports

North Kitsap girls not giving up on tough season

POULSBO — The North Kitsap High School girls basketball team continued to struggle Tuesday against a rejuvenated Klahowya squad.

The Vikings, who were missing starting forwards Nikki Taplin and Indika Bray due to injuries, fell to the Eagles, 41-25. Klahowya improved to 7-3 on the season, while North dropped to 3-8 overall.

“We definitely didn’t play to our potential,” senior guard Brandi Ritter said. “We tried to use the excuse that we were two people down, but that’s not an excuse.”

Klahowya’s Jordan Dixon led all scorers with 14 points, five assists and five rebounds. Teammate Carly McElwee added 14 rebounds and eight points. Lexi Simmons led North with six points and six rebounds.

After a December riddled with losses, North Kitsap made some changes and won its first two games of 2010 last week, against Port Townsend and Sequim. But the Vikings couldn’t continue the streak against the Eagles, who have already won more games this year than they did in the past two seasons combined.

“We’ve improved a lot, but I think it was a big letdown losing those two girls,” North Kitsap Coach Bill Hobaugh said. “It was an emotional letdown. We psyched ourselves out. Because we’re such a young team, we played like we weren’t ready to play the game.”

With Taplin on the sideline, the Vikings have just two seniors on the squad. Nine of the team’s 13 players are freshmen and sophomores. Several of last year’s top players either graduated or committed to select teams and did not return this year. The Vikings have struggled to compete against older, more experienced opponents all season.

“Last year we had a lot of older players,” Ritter said. “It’s been tough to get (the team) up to the competitive level of varsity.”

Tuesday’s game began with both teams struggling on offense. Klahowya eventually jumped out to a 10-4 lead late in the first quarter, but the Vikings rallied to pull within two points. The Eagles started to pull away in the second quarter, and finished the half with a 22-13 advantage.

“I don’t know what we were doing tonight. It’s almost hard to explain,” Ritter said. “It felt like we had all never played before. It felt like we threw in all new players.”

Without Taplin (5-foot-8) and Bray (5-foot-11) on the court, the Vikings were unable to play the type of defense they’re used to.

“Because Indika is so tall and she’s got the long arms, we do some special things with her,” Hobaugh said. “We let her be like a free safety out there, and we really miss that.”

The North Kitsap offense racked up penalties thanks to mental errors in the second half of Tuesday’s game. The Eagles took advantage of those turnovers and extended their lead to 16 en route to victory.

“We have to get rid of the turnovers. We had close to 10 travels. We have to take care of the ball,” Hobaugh said.

“One thing I can say, they don’t give up. They tried hard. It’s just like I told them, we played like a young team tonight.”

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